In a decision reached by a grand jury on Friday afternoon, all charges have been dropped against the Columbus police officer who fatally shot 16-year-old knife-wielding Ma'Khia Bryant who was about to stab a woman in April of last year.
ABC 6 reported that the grand jury declined to bring charges against Columbus Police Officer Nicholas Reardon, the cop involved in Bryant's shooting death.
When reports began to circulate that a police officer had shot and killed a black teenager, headlines quickly put officer Reardon in the crosshairs. Coming off the heels of the Derek Chauvin trial, the shooting quickly received national attention, even reaching the Biden administration's notice. White House press secretary Jen Paksi called the shooting "tragic," and told outlets that the administration would make efforts to prevent similar shootings from happening in the future.
"Our focus is on working to address systemic racism and implicit bias head-on and, of course, to passing laws and legislation that will put much-needed reforms into place at police departments around the country," Paksi said at the time.
But as time passed, the events of April 20, 2021, became more evident. Instead of a case of "implicit bias," Reardon's actions were soon discovered to be preventative in nature. Footage from Reardon's body cam told an entirely different story.
That day, Columbus Police were dispatched after a 911 call. Reardon arrived at the scene to find Bryant brandishing a knife at two other women. Reardon, recognizing a deadly threat, fired his weapon and shot Bryant four times, killing her. Eyewitnesses at the scene later reported that Reardon had only "seconds" to act.
"At the time I fired my weapon, I was in fear for the life of the female in pink," Reardon later said, talking about Bryant's would-be stabbing victim.
After examining the full set of circumstances, the grand jury decided that it could not find probable cause that officer Reardon had committed a crime. Reardon, they decided, would be cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.
"Under Ohio law the use of deadly force by a police officer is justified when there exists an immediate or imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or another," special prosecutors Tim Merkle and Gary Shroyer explained in announcing the grand jury's decision, mentioning a full review of the shooting.
Bryant family attorney Michelle Martin said in a statement to ABC 6:
"Ma'Khia Bryant's family is disappointed that a Franklin County grand jury declined to indict the officer who shot and killed her last year. Ma'Khia's family has long wondered why this officer opted for lethal force even though there should have been other non-deadly options available to deal with this situation."
"We believe that the tragedy that ultimately resulted in Ma'Khia's death started long before she was shot and killed by a Columbus police officer," the family attorney's press statement continues, adding: "There must be full-scale changes made to Ohio's foster care system to ensure that this doesn't happen to another child. We need to work tirelessly to protect those who are most vulnerable in our society. Ohio's foster care system is failing our children and we cannot stand by and allow this to continue. As the one-year anniversary of Ma'Khia's death approaches, her family is resolute in their fight for justice on her behalf."
Jeff Simpson, president of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), told ABC 6 that, while Bryant's death was a tragedy, Reardon's actions had been a fulfillment of his duties as an officer. "It's always sad when there is a loss of life, however, the actions of the people at the scene, caused him to take action that saved lives and he is trained very well," the FOP president said in a statement on the matter.
While charges against Reardon have been cleared, an additional internal investigation will be launched by the city to determine whether he followed procedure per policy laid out by the Columbus Public Safety Department.
"We thank the independent investigators of Ohio BCI for their diligence on this case. The next step in this process is an administrative investigation to determine whether the officer's actions were within division policy. Because of that pending investigation, at this time we are not able to comment further," CPSD said.
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